‘Bike 4 Mike’ ride to raise funds to help find treatments, cure for ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease


By Karen Billing

The first annual “Bike 4 Mike” fundraising bike ride will be held on Sunday, Nov. 4, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to raise money for Team Godfather, an organization devoted to finding treatment and a cure for ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The event is in celebration of “The Godfather,” Mike Ramirez, a local resident who died in April 2012 at age 56 from the devastating disease.

The event will begin and end at the fairgrounds with three different distances for riders to choose: 10, 25 or 50 miles on the scenic coastline. The 10-mile and 25-mile courses will be relatively flat while the 50-mile course will feature some challenging hills. Additionally, for those not as comfortable riding the road, there will be a spin bike class at the fairgrounds run by Solana Beach fitness studio BodyROK.

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a progressive disorder that causes permanent paralysis and destroys nerve cells that control muscle movement. Some 5,600 Americans are diagnosed every year and people typically live three to five years after diagnosis. There is currently no cure or treatment.

“The remarkable thing about Mike was that he really felt that God chose him, that it was his destiny, that it was meant to be that he would be a link to finding a cure,” said Scott McCauley, one of Mike’s friends and event sponsor. “I truly believe that destiny, that’s why I have been so passionate about it.”

Greg Sacks, one of Mike’s best friends and a Team Godfather board member, said everyone is passionate about the event and the cause because of Mike and who he was.

Ramirez was the executive vice president, San Diego south regional manager and head of the corporate banking group for Pacific Western Bank. The University of San Diego graduate competed in marathons and triathlons and was an avid golfer and cyclist. He was always active—he studied karate, practiced yoga and played in the Over the Line beach volleyball tournament.

Mike was diagnosed with ALS in September of 2009.

“It’s a pretty devastating diagnosis,” said Sacks. “It’s one of those hypothetical questions people ask themselves, you’re given two years to live, what do you want to do with the rest of your life?”

Sacks said Mike and his family spent time processing the diagnosis and what it meant, but just three weeks later, they fundraised for and participated in the Walk to Defeat ALS in Mission Bay. More than 250 friends and family showed up to support him and he was able to raise over $3,500.

Mike, a father of two children, Michael Jr. and Colleen, decided that he would devote the time he had left to fundraising and helping find a cure, founding Team Godfather with his wife Maureen.

The organization has since put on successful events at the Belly Up and the Nine, Wine and Dine ladies golf tournament that raised $13,000 in its second year this year.

McCauley had become good friends with Mike and helped remodel his home to make it easier for him to get around. He had the idea for the bike ride in January and Mike was on board with the plan.

“Kevin has taken this thing to an incredible level with his effort and passion,” Sacks said.

Kevin’s company, McCauley Builders, is a sponsor of the event, along with his wife Debbie and daughter Lauren McCauley Elliott of Coldwell Banker and Fairbanks Ranch Plaza’s Ranch Cycles.

Participants will receive a Team Godfather shirt and prizes will be awarded for top fundraisers. They hope to fill the fairground’s Plaza de Mexico with people for a fiesta lunch and party after the rides.

“Everything we do for Team Godfather is all based on fun,” McCauley said. “Mike inspired a lot of people and coming to our event, you can see it. He never felt sorry for himself. He said ‘Let’s turn this into something positive’ and that has carried through.”

“He is always our inspiration,” said Sacks. “What drives us is that this disease is curable, it’s just going to take time and an incredible amount of money. It takes private funding to get the work and research done and that’s our commitment.”

An open house at Ranch Cycles will be held on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 6 p.m. Come by and meet the sponsors and find out more about the event. Register at www.teamgodfather.org/bike4mike